Paul Corkum receives Royal Society Medal

31 July 2017

Paul Corkum, University of Ottawa (Canada)

Canadian physicist Paul Corkum is among 17 scientists receiving medals from the Royal Society (UK). The Royal Medals, along with a monetary gift, recognize researchers who have made outstanding contributions to science. The Royal Medals were founded by King George IV in 1825, and are awarded annually on behalf of the Queen.

Corkum, who holds a joint chair with the University of Ottawa and Canada's National Research Council, received the award for his contributions to laser physics and the development of the relatively new field of attosecond science. Corkum has pioneered concepts in this branch of physics -- the study of processes that occur on a time scale of an attosecond (a billion-billionths of a second). An attosecond is to one second as one second is to the age of the universe.

Just over 20 ago, Corkum explained the origin of the high harmonic radiation that had been discovered in France. Within a year of developing the theory, Corkum and his group proposed methods for producing and measuring the world's shortest light flashes. Seven years later, he participated in the first experiments in which attosecond pulses were produced and measured. Since then Corkum's group has imaged molecular orbitals, "watched" a molecule's electrons as a chemical reaction takes place and extended recollision technology to solids.

"When I received the notification informing me that I'd won the Royal Medal I thought that it was a scam - like when you get an email saying you may have won $1,000,000," says Corkum. "This was a truly wonderful surprise and compliment. Receiving the Royal Medal is a sign that the scientific community recognizes the importance of attosecond science, a field where there are strong future opportunities."

Corkum is a fellow of the Royal Societies of Canada and London and the Royal Photographic Society. He is a foreign member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the Austrian Academy of Science. In 2013, he was awarded the King Faisal Prize for science (Saudi Arabia), the Harvey Prize for physics (Israel) and the Progress Medal for Photography (UK). In 2014, he received the Ives Medal of the Optical Society of America - the society's top medal. He was the 2015 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate and was award the 2015 Lomonosov Gold Medal by the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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